Jasmine Dickey is a throwback to the way basketball was once played. She puts her shoulder down, drives to the basket, and looks for a short-range shot, daring her opponent to either stop her or foul her.
The style has left Dickey’s hands, arms and shoulders scratched and bruised, but she said she relishes the contact.
“I just like the physicality of the game,” she said recently. “That’s what triggers me to push harder and motivates me to go harder. I always want to play, and I always want to compete. It’s just a matter of me keep pushing hard and getting better.”
Carrying over that philosophy, which served Dickey so well as she became Baltimore County’s all-time leading scorer at Catonsville, to Delaware has been a bit more difficult. But the 5-foot-10 freshman guard-forward has found other ways to contribute.
Dickey leads the Blue Hens (16-14, 11-7 Colonial Athletic Association) in rebounding at 8.3 rebounds per game and ranks third in blocks with 18 and fourth in scoring at 7.9 points per game. She also ranks third in playing time at 25.7 minutes per game despite coming off the bench in her past seven appearances.
Coach Natasha Adair freely admitted that Dickey — who has been named the CAA’s Rookie of the Week five times — has exceeded her expectations.
“Her work ethic is impeccable, but everything in my opinion is just up a notch,” Adair said. “She’s risen to the occasion. You just never know which way a freshman is going to go because she can be overwhelmed with classes, her schedule and so many other things she has to manage. I won’t say that she’s not, but she has been able to manage it and compartmentalize it and really stay focused in every area as a freshman. I think that’s a tribute to who she is.”
Dickey made a splash in her debut for Delaware, scoring a career-high 21 points and collecting 12 rebounds in a 79-67 loss at Northern Iowa on Nov. 9. She started in 14 of the team’s next 15 games before moving to the bench.
Adair said before the shift, she discussed with Dickey the need to find a spark among the reserves, and Dickey accepted the decision.
“It’s not what I anticipated,” Dickey said of her early success, “but it’s what I’ve tried to work hard for, and it’s been what I’ve pushed for. Pretty much just practicing every day and getting to know my teammates and working hard with them was what I anticipated.”
Dickey’s reputation preceded her with the Comets, for whom she scored 2,091 points, sparked the 2016-17 team’s run to the Class 4A state championship, and keyed the 2017-18 squad’s appearance in the state title game.
Catonsville coach Mike Mohler, whose four-year record with Dickey was 93-14, said one of his favorite memories stemmed from Dickey’s 35-point, 28-rebound performance in the team’s 61-47 victory over Western in a Class 4A North Region semifinal game in her senior year.
“She was like, ‘Coach, we’re not losing. We’re winning this thing,’ ” he recalled. “It was the single most impressive game I’ve ever seen.”
Despite her aforementioned habit of slashing to the lane and seeking contact, Dickey did not miss a single game in her high school career. But with the Blue Hens, a broken nose and then a broken left hand forced her to sit out eight games.
“Sitting out and just watching, that has been the toughest challenge for me,” she said. “But my team is a great team. We have wonderful chemistry. So it all worked out in the end, and we’ve been winning games and winning together and working hard. So getting back to the court just made everything better, and we’ve just got to continue to build and build.”
Dickey has made an impression with her teammates for her determination to pound the glass for rebounds.
“She makes all of the hustle plays,” junior forward and leading scorer Samone DeFreese said. “You never have to question her energy. She’s definitely our spark coming off the bench. She’s always going for 50-50 balls, she’s our best rebounder, she makes a lot of hustle plays. Rebounding is a talent. That’s your will, and she has a lot of will to do things that not a lot of players necessarily want to do.”
If there is one area of her game that Dickey can improve in, it involves her long-range shooting. She has taken only one 3-point attempt all winter, which she missed.
“My coaches have been pushing me to shoot the ball more and are trying to make me a better threat,” she said. “I want to be able to expand my game more. So that’s what I’m going to mainly work on.”
Adair said Dickey could become even more dangerous if she can be a threat from the perimeter.
“At 5-10, she can’t power it in inside as much in certain games because she may be challenged,” she said. “The best thing she can do is open that floor, and now she’s even harder to guard because she can beat you off the dribble or she can stretch that defense by shooting it. She’s way more confident now shooting that mid-range jumper than she was when she first walked in that door. … That’s going to be a very needed skill for her as she continues to develop and mature.”
Delaware, which drew the No. 5 seed in the CAA tournament, will open postseason play against No. 4 seed Towson (17-12, 11-7) on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Doing what she can to help the Blue Hens get to the NCAA tournament remains the top priority, according to Dickey.
“It would mean a lot,” she said of winning the CAA title and the automatic qualifier to the NCAA bracket. “We’ve been fighting all year for it, and we’ve been pushing and pushing. To make it would be something spectacular.”
Dickey, who still wears the No. 20 jersey she wore at Catonsville, will be the last Comets player to wear that number, according to Mohler, who said the school will retire her jersey. He said the plan is to give Dickey the number in a frame during a Comets home game next season.
Mohler said he considers himself fortunate to have coached a player like Dickey.
“It was one of those things where I was the lucky one, and seriously, I was,” he said. “She was recruited. It just worked out for me that she ended up with us. Sometimes you get lucky, and that was really fortunate for us. You don’t get players like Jasmine to come along very often.”